Monday, September 05, 2011

Does the College Essay Suck the Life Out of Boys?

So it's pouring rain here in Knoxville and I spent the afternoon reading a terrific book called Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College. If you have a teen getting ready to apply to college, this is a great read and it's hilarious to boot.

The author, Andrew Ferguson, goes through the process of trying to help his son get into college and starts by discussing the lengths parents are going to to try and get their kids into a selective school. Some are even hiring $40,000 college counselors years before their kid applies to college to guide them through the process. Wouldn't it be easier just to give the kid forty grand and tell them to start their own business? But perhaps that is too simplistic.

One thing that caught my eye was how hard and depressing it was for the son to try and write the college essay. Many of the colleges ask for an essay about the student's "inner life"--usually a buzz word for some kind of sappy self-absorbed nonsense where the student "took a risk" of some kind and went on to become a better person or some variation of that theme.

In the book, Ferguson's son finally spits out a couple of paragraphs about his experience at a camp where there was a swimming test and he managed to swim the required distance while the rest were defeated. In the essay, the son wrote that he was "tired but proud; he sympathized with his classmates who hadn't finished and in his victory, accepted modestly, he learned the timeless value of persistence and determination, expressed with grim earnestness..."

But his father knew the truth: "which was the masculine truth. He didn't remember the race because it proved the timeless value of persistence. He remembered the victory because it was a victory: he had competed against this classmates, friends and rivals alike, and beaten them soundly and undeniably, and earned the right to a sack dance in the end zone. He knew he couldn't say this, though, and I knew he was right."

And that pretty much sums it up for the rest of college. Trying to please a bunch of people who care more about a PC stance than critically thinking with passion. It's no wonder that boys and men are bypassing college.

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16 Comments:

Blogger liz said...

This made me laugh. My two boys' criteria for their colleges were Big Ten sports and no essay. They are smart kids, but not writers or deep thinkers, now happily majoring in biology and engineering. One prompt for an essay for an engineering scholarship was to describe how you overcame adversity. My son's answer was how he had to work really hard to get his grades back up after golf season because he missed so much school during the season because he was out playing tournaments. The only adversity he ever faced was the year he was hoping to make varsity baseball but only made jv. Waaah...

4:46 PM, September 05, 2011  
Blogger ZorroPrimo said...

What, today, doesn't suck the life out of boys?

Seriously?

I'm going back to my Basil Rathbone/Tyrone Power episode of Zorro. This is too depressing for me.

5:26 PM, September 05, 2011  
Blogger Amy Alkon said...

Sad. It's like you can no longer admit to being male:

"which was the masculine truth. He didn't remember the race because it proved the timeless value of persistence. He remembered the victory because it was a victory: he had competed against this classmates, friends and rivals alike, and beaten them soundly and undeniably, and earned the right to a sack dance in the end zone. He knew he couldn't say this, though, and I knew he was right."

12:16 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I guess my son, like liz's sons, was lucky. He got into college for football, one of the more masculine reasons. I can't remember if he had to write an essay, but it wouldn't have made a difference.

Like the article said, for my son, it's very much about the victory dance in the end zone, literally in his case.

9:04 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

people who care more about a PC stance than critically thinking with passion

But, this is the part that is yet to come. I've noticed my kids, an most kids I talk to, are quite cynical about the PC crap. They regularly see people getting preferential treatment because of race and gender. They have little respect for the "establishment" because of this.

9:13 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

there is bound to be a snap-back from all this PC twaddle simply because real people can't function this way and expect real-world results...and the same tax dollar only goes so far, someone has to make something and sell it eventually.

10:20 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger David said...

American society has delegated huge power to college admissions officers. It's time we asked just who these people are and what their values might be.

Although there are surely many individual differences, I suspect that the average college admissions officer is an individual who does not have either strong scholarly interests (if he did, he'd more likely be a professor) or strong leadership abilities (in which case he'd be an executive somewhere.) I suspect they are mostly like a certain kind of HR person, the kind that focuses on jargon and trendiness, as opposed to the kind that seriously tries to make an organization work better.

11:30 AM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger kmg said...

Helen,

It looks like Trey Pennington has taken his own life, just like Thomas Ball did :

http://www.the-spearhead.com/2011/09/06/social-media-star-trey-pennington-succumbs-to-divorce-tactics-kills-self/#comment-107600

I laugh at the notion that America is still a country that values liberty and human rights. Why is it that draconian concepts like slavery, debtor's prison, etc. are alive and well in America, as long as the recipient can be tarred as someone who failed to appease a woman?

7:06 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger kmg said...

Trey Pennigton URL hyperlink.

7:06 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Well, when I taught freshman English in college, I never used writing prompts, because I think they're stupid. I also didn't teach the textbook, because I think that's ineffective. I taught analytical thinking, critical reading, and cogent writing.

The Scientific Method
Identify the problem (ask the right question)
Propose a hypothesis (a solution or an answer)
Perform experiments (do research)
Analyze data (test the hypothesis)
Confirm or reject the hypothesis; form theory

The Academic Format
Introduction (thesis)
Summary
Proof
Refutation
Conclusion

The Dramatic Plot
Exposition
Rising action (conflict)
Turning point
Falling action
Resolution

Anyone see a pattern? It's all about the structure, organization and development of thought.

I let my students come up with their own topics. Write about what interests you, I told them. Write about what you love, or better yet write about what you hate, as that will really get your blood boiling. Write about the field you're studying or the career you intend to pursue.

Law, medicine, management, engineering, politics, religion, sports, whatever, the topic doesn't matter. What matters is how you structure, organize and develop your idea.

That's what I taught.

8:04 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I laugh at the notion that America is still a country that values liberty and human rights. Why is it that draconian concepts like slavery, debtor's prison, etc. are alive and well in America, as long as the recipient can be tarred as someone who failed to appease a woman?

I'm right there with you.

The left does not value freedom. They're right there with "1984" - "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY"

8:22 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:33 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger Xiaoding said...

The right does not value freedom, either. They are right there, letting it happen, day after day.

How did all this start? With the war on drugs, that's where.

The right forgot, to get freedom, to have freedom, you first have to GIVE freedom. Even to drug users.

Both sides can die, and make room for free men and women.

9:35 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger DADvocate said...

With the war on drugs,

That and being tough on crime, RICO, hate crime laws, ...

The road to Hell.

9:50 PM, September 06, 2011  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

all cultures eat themselves eventually, we are merely chewing on the minutia right now.

our society, because of the sheer scale of it, is a bureaucratic nightmare that acts chaotically.

we can't expect a resolution to all the ists and isms flying around.

11:52 AM, September 07, 2011  
Blogger Allison said...

--But, this is the part that is yet to come. I've noticed my kids, an most kids I talk to, are quite cynical about the PC crap. They regularly see people getting preferential treatment because of race and gender. They have little respect for the "establishment" because of this.

don't be so sure. 25 years ago too, the kids in hs all knew that liberal pc stuff was crap and ridiculed it. then they went to college. the girls chose to believe to make themselves feel good about bad choices not being their fault, and the boys wanted to get laid, so they acted as if they believed it too. and quickly, they all were voting liberal, well into their 30s and 40s.

11:08 PM, September 09, 2011  

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